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Poster: light into ashes Date: Jun 1, 2011 2:51pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 10/31/71 Stops Freight Trains

I know everyone's seen this, but this was my review of the Dark Star. (By the way, if you hear this along with the 10/21 and 10/24 Stars, it adds a lot of perspective to what's going on.)

10/31/71
Having heard this Star so many times, it's hard not to hold it in special reverence. The playing seems especially calm, possessed, focused. From the start, Garcia's lighting a path to infinity with unimprovable playing - for example, check out the repeated notes he hits after first introducing the Dark Star theme, about five minutes in. He takes a long, piercing detour around the riff, then blazes right into into the Star theme again. After the verse, there's still no space; Garcia plays a cyclical pattern (similar to a '68 Cryptical), then he picks up on Lesh's bobbing line, and bang, they're in the middle of a hot jam. But he quickly lets it go, searching for a different approach; the others follow him, trying to establish solid ground. Garcia's very restless in this performance - he keeps shifting around, gets a handle on one line and then reaches for something else, dropping jams before they can build - so this Star doesn't have the driving forward momentum that 10/24 had. The other guys seem to be just keeping up!
Finally Garcia starts the Tighten Up riff, the first full-fledged Tighten Up in Dark Star for a year. Once the others have picked it up, he solos over the chords. In the middle it pauses, then resumes; at the climax Garcia holds onto one repeated note for several bars, then soars into a higher pitch. As the jam winds down, he changes styles, playing a sputnik-type pattern that slows to a smooth stop. It's the perfect opening for the second verse, and they hint at the Dark Star theme, but Garcia's not yet ready. He's still switching tones, nudging the others; the music gets wiry, with a more frantic edge, and they take it into a little discordant-flamenco bit (a distant ancestor of the Tiger jam). They're building up to something, tensely sustaining their notes. Godchaux brings in a stabilizing chord, and the band coalesces around it, all their overtones blending into one giant drone. Garcia holds feedback over the piano notes as Weir and Kreutzmann start Sugar Magnolia beneath the din - and a moment later, they're all in the new song. It's one of the most amazing segues they ever pulled off. (In the Europe '72 tour they'd try the Dark Star>Sugar Magnolia segue frequently - 4/14 is another striking example like this one, with Weir boldly cutting to Sugar Mag while Garcia's off deep in space.)
(Note that Godchaux is very quiet in the mix; so he sounds like more of a background player in this performance, though he does get louder as it goes along. The Compendium reviewer, by the way, called this Star flat and lifeless! "Too careful and pensive, void of any feeling," he says...)
Later on, the last St Stephen for many years is rather stiff, but Garcia pulls off some very unique soloing. He's not through for the night, either; Not Fade Away was going through a tremendous revival this fall, and his solos in this Not Fade Away will - as they say - steal your face right off your head....

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Poster: jerlouvis Date: Jun 1, 2011 4:26pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 10/31/71 Stops Freight Trains

I have always found the appeal of this Dark Star to be somewhat confusing,it is clearly a transitory version,that tends to jump around in search of some direction and never really gels.The pre-verse jam contains some nice Jer and Phil interplay,and Weir while low in the mix adds some nice fills.After the verse Jer and Phil trade licks into a riffy jam sort of on the main theme/Other One-ish, then Jer noodles about until they settle into a lackluster Tighten Up jam that dissolves into a hackneyed end at about 19:30 where Jer proceeds to noodle until the 21 minute mark,where he reels off some very nice stinging leads and the music takes off into a strong space with Billy adding some nice touches before the Sugar Mag.
The fact that this version is held in such high regard when it is not really the psychedelic force it was,nor the jazz/space odyssey it would become is where my confusion lies,I hear no music on this version that even comes close to the 69'-70' or 72'-74' versions that define the song.
The 10/21 and 10/24 versions are much more focused and have a more band oriented feel with Keith playing a major role in both,all the more impressive as they were his 1st and 2nd efforts on the song,each version has a good UJB jam and some hot spacey passages.

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Poster: yesss! Date: Jun 1, 2011 10:55pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 10/31/71 Stops Freight Trains

yeah, i have to agree with you. i have never really found this show to be as special as a lot of people feel that it is and, having seen it mentioned here numerous times, i have given it lots of chances to prove me wrong. it just doesn't speak to me, i guess. i do love the fall '71 tour (especially the more rockin' numbers like cumberland and NFA) but this isn't one of the stronger shows imo, and there are dark stars from the tour that i personally prefer. but that is what makes music such a personal thing for folks- we all hear it differently based on who we are and when/how we listen. whatever floats yer boat.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Jun 1, 2011 6:56pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: 10/31/71 Stops Freight Trains

Well, you're not all alone; the Taping Compendium wasn't thrilled either:
"Dark Star is played intricately and looks good on the surface, but it's too careful and pensive, void of any feeling. All the players have moments where they turn it up a notch, but never as a unified thrust. An interesting jam emerges halfway through...this leads into a spacey melt for a few minutes that starts to show signs of life - until Weir kills it dead by going into a decent Sugar Mag."